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  • Margaret Kavanagh

Are you getting enough protein?

Protein is a hot topic at the moment. There are protein powders, bars, drinks, fortified breakfast cereals and a whole host of other products filling our supermarket shelves. But how do you know how much you should be consuming?


Firstly, let's understand the role of protein in your body. You can think of protein as the building block of your body, involved in just about every bodily function from building and repairing cells to controlling blood sugar levels, healing wounds and fighting off bacteria. Protein can also can help boost your metabolism and fat burning potential.


Foods that contain protein provide us with amino acids, some of which we must get from our diets because our bodies cannot make them on their own. These are called essential amino acids. Amino acids can be found in many different types of foods, even vegetables, but the highest sources are those that come from animals – like meat, dairy, eggs and fish – plus to a lesser extent certain plant foods like beans and seeds.


Most people eating a “standard Western diet” appear to consume enough protein overall. However, many people don’t necessarily eat the highest quality sources of protein and as a result may be deficient in certain essential amino acids which can lead to symptoms such as weakness, poor concentration, increased hunger, inability to lose weight and fatigue.


Each person is unique in terms of her or his exact protein needs. Your body weight, gender, age, and level of activity all determine how much protein you need. Exercising a lot, excluding animal sources of protein from your diet, over-consumption of alcohol and gut issues can all affect the level of protein required.


The best way to get all the essential amino acids you require is to include protein-rich foods in each of your meals and snacks from good quality plant and animal sources. And by quality, I mean real, whole, unprocessed food as nature intended it!


There are various recommendation and formulas on how to calculate your protein. I work with the Institute of Health Sciences guidelines which recommends a range between 0.8g per kg of body weight to 2.2g per kg of bodyweight for the average (non-athlete) person. It is recommended you work with a professional if you wish to increase your protein intake above 2.2g/kg.


Example:

The protein requirements for someone weighing 60kg is calculated as follows:

60kg x 0.8g = 48g (lower end of range) to 60g x 2.2g = 132g (upper end).

So this person should aim to consume anywhere from 48g to 132g across the day. But be aware that increasing your protein intake too quickly can lead to some digestive upset so gradually increase your intake over time.


Here are some quick references for the amount of protein found in various foods:

- Chicken breast 100g = 32g protein

- Tuna canned 100g = 25g

- Lentils 100g = 24g

- Cheddar cheese 100g = 25g

- Greek yogurt 100g = 6g


Margaret Kavanagh Nutrition helps busy professionals make the switch from exhausted to energised to win at work and thrive in life through one to one personalised nutrition and lifestyle coaching.


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